Moving Through The Gears: Ideation to Execution

Dreaming, writing, journaling, imagining a new world, service or product


Sarah Thomas

3 years ago | 4 min read

Last week I wrote about getting that ideation train moving because earlier in the year mine ground to an almighty halt. I was stranded, out of imaginary coal and getting hungrier by the day. I flailed around in a few wrong directions Stilted, stuck, blocked; such a horrible feeling but in the end I got it moving again.

Now, is it time for smooth sailing? Hell no, it’s not. That’s just phase 1 of the journey for each idea. I’m moving now and thinking about the rest of the trip. As much as I’d love to sit around drinking Irish Coffee and pretending to be a renaissance spirit these ideas deserve to be forged into something more tangible or at least tried out on more solid ground than my imagination.

I need to get moving, and I’ve never driven a train, so I’m going to switch to a bicycle analogy and run one idea at a time through the gear motions, taking note of the dangers associated with staying in the wrong one for too long.

BTW i know bikes have more than 4 gears.

Ideation — 1st Gear

Dreaming, writing, journaling, imagining a new world, service or product. I wrote about that last week.

I now have an idea. It may have started with a big question about the world; it may have come in solo, in the night, on the dog walk. Whatever, it’s there.

It could be a new short story, or a product or a new character in a script.

I’m peddling but slowly because I don’t want to burn out in 1st Gear. That would be a shame.

The most significant danger of staying in the 1st gear mode all the time is never getting anything done at all.

This is a classic dreamer space. I feel like I was here for most of my life — disjointed ideas floating in and out of my consciousness.

Then I took a course, and that changed everything. What’s your inciting incident to take you from 1st to 2nd Gear? You’ve got to be on the lookout for this; like most things in life, it doesn’t come to you directly. You need to seek it out.

Otherwise, you’ll stay on your bike, pottering, peddling along and never getting any closer to the mountain.

Planning — 2nd Gear

I love this part. Taking an intangible and making it possible. It’s the first draft of a script or the first character exercise. It’s the first piece of reality that you apply to your idea.

You create an action plan — the where, why, how, who etc.

Each of those answers should spring up a list of actions, and there you are; you have an action plan, and it’s achievable.

Your plan may include collaborators, marketing channels, customer personas. Whatever you need to get your idea moving should be on this plan.

The dangers of sitting too long in second Gear are:

- Working on the perfect plan to such an extent that you never get onto the next phase

- Losing the momentum, you gained in step 1 and coming to a complete stop. Maybe you’ve been in this Gear for too long?

How do you overcome this? Could you set a deadline to finish it? If you planned out the entire process from step 1 to 4, you could avoid the inertia. It’s just a plan, another low gear activity but an essential one.

Danny Forest wrote an inspiring article about releasing a brand new product in just 24 hours. No time for faffing, talking yourself out of it or slowing down the process with 100 distractions.

Doing — 3rd Gear

We’re getting up some speed now. Woohoo, time to put some elbow grease into it and start the creating, writing, research, marketing and billion other things that are associated with following through on an idea.

3rd Gear is also fun; you can see it coming alive before your eyes.

Dangers include:

- Getting sidetracked. Are you on the right channels, in the right company? Remember to check in with your plan as you go along.

- Maybe you’re experiencing a little sabotage; from within or without. Remember, the world is out to slow you down. On your feet, soldier.

- Maybe it feels so close that you allow your feet to come off the pedals

It’s time for a map check again. Please don’t lose sight of the original inspiration; it’s been a dominant force because it’s got you to the third Gear.

Give yourself a pep talk; extraordinary things are HARD. Accept it or don’t bother being an entrepreneur. There’s no halfway point for your attitude if you want to succeed.

Take Off — 4th Gear

Holy shit you’re there! Your whizzing down the final gate and into the mountain castle. Go you!

Photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash
Photo by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash

The danger here is that you sit still for too long, sipping your Armagnac and looking out over the view. Time to start thinking of your next idea isn’t it?

Or maybe the road has been so severe that you’re dreading the thought of doing it again. That’s cool, time to retire; unless you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s that is. Then you’ve got to take note of the lessons of the hardship and get back on the bike.

All roads lead to getting back on your bike and doing it all again. Good luck!


Created by

Sarah Thomas







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